Statistics Canada head resigns

Wayne Smith says independence of agency is compromised by new information-technology arrangements

OTTAWA – Statistics Canada chief Wayne Smith has resigned, saying the independence of his agency is compromised by new information-technology arrangements.

It marks the second time in just over six years that a chief statistician has quit over a point of principle.

In an email to the National Statistical Council, Smith says Shared Services Canada now holds an effective veto over many of the statistical agency’s operations.

Smith says he can’t support federal initiatives to centralize IT services that effectively undermine the independence of Statistics Canada, which the federal government has committed to protect.

“All of you are aware of my view that this loss of independence and control is not only an apprehension, but an effective reality today, as Statistics Canada is increasingly hobbled in the delivery of its programs through disruptive, ineffective, slow and unaffordable supply of physical informatics services by Shared Services Canada,” says the email, obtained by The Canadian Press.

“I have made the best effort I can to have this situation remediated, but to no effect. I cannot lend my support to government initiatives that will purport to protect the independence of Statistics Canada when, in fact, that independence has never been more compromised.”

Smith says he does not wish to preside over what he describes as the decline of a world-leading statistical office. “So I am resigning, in order to call public attention to this situation.”

The decision of the previous Conservative government to make the long-form census a voluntary survey led to the July 2010 resignation of Munir Sheikh, Smith’s predecessor.

The Liberals promised in the last election campaign to give Statistics Canada more independence from government intervention and were expected to table legislation this fall to follow through on the pledge. The new government quickly reinstated the long-form census following the October election.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, responsible for Statistics Canada, thanked Smith for his long and dedicated services at the agency and welcomed Smith’s replacement, former assistant chief statistician Anil Arora.

“We are working closely with Statistics Canada towards the reinforcement of the independence of this eminent institution which plays an essential role in providing Canadians with accurate and reliable statistical data,” Bains said in a statement.

The minister made no specific reference to Smith’s complaints.